Star Trek: Prodigy – Season 1 Episode 20
“Supernova, Part 2”
Star Trek: Prodigy closes off its first season with loose ends to tie up and a look to the future.
The previous episode ended with the escalation of the threat to the Federation as the signal spreads to every Starfleet ship that warps in to lend assistance. It’s a clear example of the crew being at their lowest point in the midst of a hopeless situation. The melancholy doesn’t last long thanks to Dal suggestion that they destroy the Protostar and take the Living Construct with it. Naturally, there are complications to this plan as the destruction of the small star powering the Protowarp Drive will create a massive explosion that will envelop all of the ships nearby.
Fortunately, the damage can be minimised by destroying the ship at Protowarp, spreading the damage across several lightyears and diluting the devastation. A debate could be had about the damage to a large area of space but under the circumstances, it’s the best available idea and far better than the loss of countless lives aboard the nearby ships. It’s another example of quick thinking on the part of the crew and their internalisation of Federation and Starfleet values through their focus on doing everything possible to protect others. This reinforces the development they have all experienced and their innate goodness while establishing that solving the problem cannot be done without some kind of sacrifice.
Sacrifice is a concept the episode details in three key ways. The first is sacrificing the Protostar in order to save the Federation, the second is Dal’s willingness to stay behind and give up his life so that the others will have the opportunity to join Starfleet and the third is Holo-Janeway sacrificing herself so that the crew will survive.
The destruction of the Protostar is significant because it represents a lot to the crew. It has been a home for them, it has kept them together, it brought them freedom and provided opportunities to become the best versions of themselves. Jankom is the one to lament its loss from the perspective of an engineer putting a lot of time into maintaining the ship and its systems but it’s clear that he feels a profound connection to everything the Protostar represents for all of them and finds the idea of losing that devastating. Without the ship keeping them together, there is a lot of uncertainty about how their dynamic will persist. The crew’s willingness to destroy something so significant to all of them shows they understand the necessity of personal sacrifice for the greater good; another foundational Starfleet value.
Dal’s willingness to sacrifice himself comes from the knowledge that being genetically engineered means that he is banned from joining Starfleet. As mentioned in my review of the previous episode, he has assigned most of his self-identity to getting into Starfleet which means that he currently feels expendable as he believes that achieving that goal is impossible. It’s a wrongheaded assumption as he is failing to consider what additional meaning his life could have without joining Starfleet but his heart is very much in the right place and it’s a further display of how far he’s come through his willingness to commit to a selfless sacrifice.
The sacrifice actually comes from Holo-Janeway who takes it upon herself to ensure they get to safety before destroying the ship. At the time she seems to be the most logical choice because a copy can be made which means that she isn’t lost in the same way that the others are. There is no mention of the existential conundrum created by the copy of Holo-Janeway not actually being the original. Prodigy has conspicuously stayed away from debating the sentience of Holo-Janeway though it has never been relevant in context as the crew have never regarded her as anything but one of them. As far as they’re concerned she is a real person they care about and they value her guidance. Rok underscores that by pointing out that she’s their friend when the suggestion of her being the one to stay on the ship is made.
Unfortunately, the plan to copy her won’t work as her program is too large to fit on the isolinear chip but she spares the crew that knowledge until it’s too late to do anything about it and makes the sacrifice as planned. The loss of Holo-Janeway is weighty for obvious reasons where the crew are concerned but it becomes more impactful when connected to the loss of the Protostar. Holo-Janeway is a program installed on the Protostar and she has an intimate knowledge of the systems, allowing her to be a better mentor to the fledgling crew. She is the ship and in many ways; she personifies the Star Trek mantra of the ship being a character in the show. Holo-Janeway and the Protostar being destroyed together enhances the gravity of what has been lost. The destruction of the Protostar is visually stunning and the silent pause following the explosion gives the moment emotional heft by encouraging quiet contemplation. It’s a moment’s silence out of respect for Holo-Janeway, the Protostar and what the sacrifice represents.
Holo-Janeway’s farewell message to the crew is powerful. Her program being too large to be copied is proof that she has grown and evolved in her time with the crew. It’s something to be celebrated as she became far more than she thought possible while forging a deep bond with the crew. Whether she is capable of actual emotion or merely simulates it is irrelevant for the purposes of this scene as the emotional connection is real as far as the crew are concerned and her words have weight because they highlight the very real bond that has formed between all of them. As a training hologram, Holo-Janeway will be programmed to recognise various kinds of progress in those she trains and offer encouragement as they improve so based on what she is designed to do it makes sense that she would focus on how far they’ve come together while compelling them to continue along the path they have taken to so well. There is sincerity to her words in keeping with the emotional bond that has been created but she has also fulfilled her purpose and her final act is summarising that in a deeply moving way. Her declaration of their potential being infinite and inspiring them to “go boldly” punctuated by a meditative version of the iconic Star Trek fanfare was a pitch-perfect parting statement from Holo-Janeway that neatly marks the end of this stage in the character’s lives.
Curiously, the resolution of the threat to the Federation and Holo-Janeway’s sacrifice is only a part of the episode with much of it taking place a month later to deal with the aftermath. It’s a brave choice to end the first season of a show aimed at young viewers with long dialogue scenes. This shows respect for the show’s audience with the assumption that their investment in the characters and story will ensure they’re interested in dramatic dialogue-driven scenes wrapping up the season. It also shows an understanding of the franchise and where the priorities should be.
There’s a lot of information delivered in the different conversations and a great deal of setting up for the next season. The main thing that has to be resolved is the role the crew played in the recent incident. A hearing begins without the presence to discuss the situation with Janeway fighting their corner because she believes that they saved the Federation. The Admirals conducting the hearing are bordering on contempt for the crew which Janeway refuses to stand for. Kate Mulgrew’s delivery of the line “in their absence and in my presence, they get our respect” is dripping in authority and said in such a way that makes it abundantly clear that Janeway is not someone to be messed with.
When the crew appear they are given the chance to face the hearing and Janeway continues to be an advocate for them. One of the Admirals calls Dal an “Augment” and there is clear disgust in his voice when saying the word. It’s an unquestionable indicator of prejudice and suggests that the Federation’s ban on genetic engineering comes from a really ugly place that very few are willing to actually explore. Janeway’s point is that Dal isn’t augmented in any way and is actually a living symbol of everything the Federation represents. He is made up of the DNA of 26 species so he is the living embodiment of different species working together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. As far as Janeway is concerned, Dal has proven his excellence and should be allowed to be part of Starfleet on that basis rather than being excluded due to the circumstances of his creation.
As mentioned in previous reviews, Star Trek has been circling the genetic engineering debate for some time now but has yet to cover it in detail. This episode uses Dal as a case study but only goes as far as having the circumstances of his creation discounted in favour of judging him on the merits of his actions. It’s enough to get him into Starfleet because of Janeway’s persuasive argument but the innate prejudice against the genetically engineered remains largely unexplored.
A number of things set up the next season. Janeway receives a report that the destruction of the Protostar created a wormhole to an alternate future 52 years from the present day. A similar but different distress call from Chakotay has been picked up through the wormhole indicating that it’s from a slightly earlier point in the previously mentioned future timeline. The message is from before the Protostar was sent through the anomaly which suggests that the ship could return next season if Starfleet can get through the wormhole in time. It hasn’t been established what happened to the original wormhole which suggests that there could be two versions of the alternate future for the show to play with next season. Janeway definitely wants to be part of any mission with the purpose of rescuing Chakotay which sets up her involvement in this next season. This has a lot of potential and provides a natural bridge between seasons one and two through the unresolved Chakotay plot thread.
Also unresolved is the disastrous First Contact with the Vau N’Akat as it has yet to happen. The solution for now is sending Gwyn as an ambassador of sorts as a way to make things right before they go wrong. It’s a significant personal mission for Gwyn as she has never met her people or been to her homeworld so now has the chance to do that. Ella Purnell’s delivery of Gwyn stating that she knows the location of her homeworld is excellent. There is happiness and a hint of trepidation in her voice as she considers what could happen when she finds her people. She is approaching her mission with a positive attitude because she wants to make things right and prevent the unfortunate events that led to her creation. Another thing she recognises is the opportunity to meet her father as a younger man before he was consumed by bitterness. As she points out, time travel is confusing but in her case, it’s a chance for a fresh start for her and her people. If things go well then she can find another place to belong and more people to call her own.
A likely complication to this is the fact that the Vindicator is still out there and may have the same idea of going to her homeworld to influence their future. There is an obvious conflict between Gwyn’s Federation values and the Vindicator’s desire for revenge. Gwyn could find that her people have already been conditioned to be hostile to what the Federation represents which would make the conflict an ideological one.
The final tease for the second season involves Janeway’s plan for the crew. They aren’t admitted to Starfleet Academy but they are assigned to be trained by Janeway herself on a ship of her choosing. As outcomes go it may be better than attending the academy as many cadets would jump at the opportunity to be personally mentored by Kathryn Janeway. It’s an excellent outcome for the characters as they achieve their dream of being part of Starfleet while mostly staying together. There is a bittersweet note to the resolution as Gwyn won’t be joining them. One of the few drawbacks to the episode is the clumsiness of the reveal surrounding Gwyn’s mission. It’s structured as a surprise within the narrative but it’s unclear whether it was a decision made prior to Janeway announcing what will come next to them or if was something Gwyn came to realise in the moment.
Gwyn going off on her own mission breaks up the family which is naturally upsetting for all concerned but everyone recognises the importance of what Gwyn is being sent to do. She is given the title of “The Unifier” which is an obvious riff on “The Diviner” and “The Vindicator” and a continuation of the idea that the Vau N’Akat give themselves titles to outline their purpose. Gwyn is going to unify her people and prevent the civil war that tore them apart so “Unifier” is an appropriate title for that purpose while also being that she has earned through using her linguistic skill to bring people together to help the Federation.
Going into the second season there is an alteration of the core dynamic of the show but it’s also familiar enough to not be a jarring shift. The crew are still mostly together with Janeway training them but the setup is remixed slightly and there will be a new ship. The reveal of the ship is saved for next season but it’s clear that Janeway has something big planned. It could be the Dauntless or perhaps the hint is in the direction of Voyager.
Janeway’s summation of the season is great. She mentions being excited about the prospect of helping the Protostar crew discover who they are, what they’re capable of, improve themselves and find their place in the universe. Punctuating her words is a montage showing the crew preparing for the next step. Rok finds her science field, Zero has a new suit built to Starfleet standards and Jankom demonstrates he is capable of engineering finesse. These quickly show how far the crew have come and indicate that their development will continue.
The quiet moment between Dal and Gwyn acts as a summation on a more personal level. They reflect on how far they’ve come together and how they can’t quite believe it. It’s a continuation of their scene in the previous episode and contains a kiss that isn’t a result of mixed signals. This doesn’t necessarily suggest a romantic connection between them and the scene certainly doesn’t play as a declaration of those sorts of feelings. Dal kissing her in the previous episode suggests an attraction on his part but their kiss in this episode comes across as an expression of friendship and a parting gesture. When combined with Janeway’s summation and the hints as to what the second season will bring, it makes for a near-perfect conclusion to what this season offered.
An excellent finale that caps off the season wonderfully with satisfying emotional payoffs to many of the arcs and exciting teases for the next season. The destruction of the Protostar is significant because of what it represents to the crew. Holo-Janeway staying behind extends this idea as she is the ship in many ways; she personifies the Star Trek mantra of the ship being a character in the show. Her loss is weighty because of the bond that exists between her and the crew and her final message to the crew is powerful. The resolution of the threat to the Federation and Holo-Janeway’s sacrifice is only a part of the episode with much of it taking place a month later to deal with the aftermath. It’s a brave choice to end the first season of a show aimed at young viewers with long dialogue scenes. The main thing to be resolved is the role the crew played in the recent incident. The Admirals conducting the hearing are bordering on contempt for the crew which Janeway refuses to stand for. When the crew appear they are given the chance to face the hearing and Janeway continues to be an advocate for them. One of the Admirals makes their prejudice towards Augments very clear but Janeway makes the point that Dal is the living embodiment of what the Federation represents. As far as Janeway is concerned, Dal has proven his excellence and should be allowed to be part of Starfleet on that basis rather than being excluded due to the circumstances of his creation. Her argument is enough to get him in but the wider issue remains unexplored. A number of things set up the next season such as the wormhole to the alternate timeline where Chakotay remains trapped and Janeway’s desire to be part of the mission that will rescue him. The disastrous First Contact with the Vau N’Akat also remains unresolved but progresses when Gwyn is sent as an ambassador of sorts to put things right. It’s a significant personal mission for Gwyn as she has never met her people or been to her homeworld. Ella Purnell’s performance as Gwyn considers what she will find is excellent. The final tease for next season involves Janeway’s plan for the crew. Having them under her command on a ship of her choosing is an alteration of the core dynamic of the show but it’s also familiar enough to not be a jarring shift. Gwyn going off on her own mission breaks up the family which is naturally upsetting for all concerned but everyone recognises the importance of what Gwyn is being sent to do. Her being given the title of “The Unifier” is appropriate and fully earned. Janeway’s summation of the season is great. She mentions being excited about the prospect of helping the Protostar crew discover who they are, what they’re capable of, improve themselves and find their place in the universe. Punctuating her words is a montage showing the crew preparing for the next step. These quickly show how far the crew have come and indicate that their development will continue. The quiet moment between Dal and Gwyn acts as a summation on a more personal level. They reflect on how far they’ve come together and how they can’t quite believe it. Their kiss comes across as an expression of friendship and a parting gesture. When combined with Janeway’s summation and the hints as to what the second season will bring, it makes for a near-perfect conclusion to what this season offered.
- the weighty loss of the Protostar and Holo-Janeway
- the silent pause after the destruction of the Protostar
- Holo-Janeway’s powerful farewell message to the crew
- respecting the show’s audience with long dialogue scenes to resolve arcs
- Janeway’s unwavering support for the crew during the hearing
- her point about Dal being exactly what the Federation represents
- compelling teases for next season
- Gwyn being given the opportunity to make things right for her people and find somewhere else to belong
- Ella Purnell’s portrayal of happiness combined with trepidation about what comes next for her
- Gwyn being given the title of “The Unifier”
- changing the crew dynamic but keeping it familiar enough to not be a jarring shift
- Janeway’s excellent summation of the season
- the montage highlighting growth for the crew and the indication of their development continuing
- the quiet moment between Dal and Gwyn acting as a more personal summation
- the clumsiness of the reveal that Gwyn won’t be joining the crew
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